Freedom is not given. | Renata Poljak
Freedom is not given.
Project, film 17 min and public intervention with workshops

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In her newest film of a documentary structure, titled Freedom is not given. It has to be pursued, director Renata Poljak conducts a series of conversations with Croatian high school students, starting with a screening of her last short film Staging Actors/Staging Beliefs.

Multilayered conversations about the socialist past of their country, as well as the Croatian war of independence from the 1990s, religion, tradition, and history they have learned institutionally and from their private surroundings, intertwine with the students’ views on civil rights, the notion of freedom, current social, political and economic situation and their own future prospects. The discussions bring out disparate statements, bewildered views and younger generations’ state of uncertainty, passivity, helplessness and disorientation, as well as more or less conscious tolerance of various forms of violence and chauvinism. This is especially evident in the parts of discussion tackling nationalism and gender equality issues- the conflictual subjects that are constantly in the focus of mass media reports and public life in today’s Croatia.

Mommy; why am I the only one that can’t have a swastika on my pencil case?

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The inspiration for the project comes after reactions in Split (Croatia) on Split Gay Pride in the late spring of 2011. where people in the procession have been stoned and Nazi signs, gestures and salutes where present allover.
The idea comes also after I met a friend, today a profesor whose 10 years old son just asked her: ‘Mommy, why am I the only one that can’t have a swastika on my pencil case?’

This sentence stayed in my head for a long time, and it is still there.
The whole project revolves around it and takes different forms. The sentence is to be placed in the public sphere in Zagreb (sketchs above); as I believe it is very important to face a general public with this sentence coming from the 10 year old pupil and not only gallery or museum public.

Not realized urban intervention in the main Zagreb square, open project space with workshop

The project is composed :

– urban interventions

– open project space – WORKSHOP with discussions, lectures, talks, presentations and screenings as well as practical moduls touching the issues connected with the theme such as intolerance, xenophobia, racism …

– multi channel video installation /film for gallery setting

Workshops Others include lectures, talks, presentations and screenings held by invited lecturers and artists and open to all interested, as well as practical moduls with art students.
Students will produce works such as sketches, paintings, videos, and present and discuss their work in progress.

The outcome of the project will be a web page documenting all the events, works, articles, a reading and film list, and furthermore at the end of the process a book will be published bringing together all the documentation.

The program aims to question phenomena such as intolerance, xenophobia, racism in the local context, which one might define as modern forms of fascism. Continuosly working with participants the workshop strives to raise awareness of these phenomena, through multi-disciplinary education in ethics, history, sociology, political science, philosophy and visual arts, and to develop understanding of the other and different, their acceptance and non-violent conflict resolution. The program contributes to a proper understanding of the social reality in which we live, a critical thinking against the ideologies that promote hatred towards differences, a life in accordance with democratic values, respect for human rights and equality, cooperation and solidarity against hatred and violence.

The process will allow our participants, as well as researchers, to actively engage with everyday stereotypes that we encounter in our everyday life though implicitly and without full awareness. The critical reflection on the art will allow participants to actively engage with these stereotypes and to expand our understanding of the society as a whole.

I believe that such a workshop, conceptualized at the intersection of art creative process and social intervention, allows us to achieve two goals. Firstly, to engage the participants into reflection of the art creation around issues of minority position and rights. Secondly, to raise awareness of the participants and provide them with knowledge that will serve them outside of the art studio and make them more productive and social engaged citizens (artists).